With a large part of the modern media intake consumed by tweet-length quotes, a single Instagram image or a short TikTok clip, nuance and context can arguably be lost. Likewise, the recontextualising of quotes and archival imagery is a popular motif on these platforms. This characteristic of contemporary digital culture appears to have informed the creative approach of several winning and shortlisted works, which repurpose and re-contextualise words, themes or ideas to create something new, current and relevant. Whether reclaiming negative comments and reframing them, applying alternative perspectives to established history, or reworking ingrained practices, this work represents a creative approach that observes, subverts, and even empowers.
Go Back To Africasee project
Black Pencil-winning Go Back To Africa – by FCB/SIX for travel collective Black & Abroad – is a pan-African tourism campaign to encourage more Black tourists to visit the continent. This work used AI to develop an algorithm that sourced and subsequently hijacked racial slurs of ‘go back to Africa’ that are rife across Twitter. It then erased the racist context and repurposed the tweet alongside aspirational images of African vacations. In doing so it sought to reclaim the term so that Black travellers can indeed ‘Go back to Africa’ to holiday on the beautiful continent.
Instead of using data just for marketing goals the work utilises data and technology to turn the racial slur ‘Go back to Africa’ on its head into an uplifting call to action
Speaking at the announcement of the Black Pencil win, D&AD Digital Jury President Yasu Sasaki, Head of Digital Creative and Executive Creative Director at Dentsu Inc, said: “Go Back to Africa has shown the new ethics of the internet to stop the infection of that negative language. Instead of using data just for marketing goals the work utilises data and technology to turn the racial slur ‘Go back to Africa’ on its head into an uplifting call to action.”
In order to see themselves holidaying in Africa, Black travellers had to be able to see themselves there, but most of the people that appear in mainstream African travel imagery are white. In order to address this lack of representation the campaign also pulled data and images from social channels to create a first of its kind socially sourced content platform of aspirational Black travellers. This work helped fill in the gaps in travel media and helped prospective travellers to visualise an African holiday for themselves.
Brutal Postingssee project
Every 23 seconds, a homophobic remark is posted online, but often very little is done about it. In order to bring awareness to this issue and help reframe this problem in people's minds, Canadian agency Rethink created Brutal Postings – a campaign that transposed cyber homophobia to the real world, using the impact of outdoor media to strike a chord with people that was harder to ignore. Selected homophobic comments were stripped of their online visual contexts, re-designed as typographical posters and placed in busy areas of metropolitan Montreal. Within 20 minutes, the police received so many complaints that they intervened to take down the posters.
By decontextualising hateful speech and moving homophobic comments from online to offline, this out-of-home experiment was not only able to generate a more visceral reaction from the public, it was even able to change the law. In June 2019, Canada became the first country to regulate online hatred by introducing a digital charter that imposed financial punishments for tech companies that do not make a concerted effort to remove hateful speech on their platforms.
The recontextualisation of offensive statements also played a role in educating young people in the UK about the importance of their voice in politics. Fake Views by agency Saatchi & Saatchi London for Operation Black Vote is a short film featuring influential young actors Nathalie Emmanuel and Will Poulter, who become mouthpieces for racist, sexist and ignorant comments made by actual politicians. The film demonstrated to apathetic young citizens in the UK that if you don't vote, others will speak on your behalf.
UK television network Channel 4 receives hundreds of ignorant, sexist, racist and homophobic complaints every single day in reaction to the content they broadcast. 4Creatives’ Complaints Welcome took them on and turned them into a talent campaign that champions the channel’s status as a diverse, inclusive and boundary-pushing broadcaster. By repurposing complaints into a proud and playful campaign, this creative work was able to strip the offensive comments of their intended power and show the values and beliefs Channel 4 stands for, cementing its position as a cultural pioneer.
Speaking to D&AD earlier this year, Nick Eagleton, cofounder of Saboteur said: “It was our favourite use of words in 630 entries. They used their own words against them in the most wonderful, funny, warm, playful way.”
They used their own words against them in the most wonderful, funny, warm, playful way
Refurbished Tweets by BETC / BETC Paris for French refurbished smartphone brand Back Market also grabbed user-generated comments out of their original context to rework them into a campaign. Old celebrity tweets professing excitement about the then-forthcoming iPhone 5 were plucked out and cheekily co-opted as contemporary endorsements of the phone, now primarily available only as a refurbished item. Channeling the brand’s recycling ethos, this literal refurbishing of old, forgotten tweets appeared, in practice at least, to be the biggest online influencer campaign ever, whilst cannily circumnavigating the high costs usually associated with celebrity endorsements.
COMA – A GettyImages Original Seriessee project
COMA – A Getty Images Original Series by agency AlmapBBDO creatively tapped into Getty’s vast image archive to tell fascinating stories across episodic programmes. Feeding the appetite for binge-watchable episodes, this work also simultaneously showcases the versatility of its archive to create such narratives. It demonstrates to clients that to produce new stories you don’t always need new material. Archival images and footage, such as that in the Getty archive, can be mined to create stories that captivate and engage.
“It highlights the possibilities and inevitabilities of creating work in a climate where large groups of people cannot gather for shoots, for example. The creation of works using just stock footage or found material responds to the need, going forward, for new ways of thinking about creativity and the consideration of new styles and methods of creative production,” said Jo Motoyo, Film Director, TOKYO (Taiyo Kikaku).
IKEA - Silence the Critics by Mother London was able to reframe elements of contemporary culture and take them into unexpected spaces. This work sees a family's home being critiqued by animated household ornaments in the typical style of a grime diss track, which the artist D Double E is best known for. Pulling out a core element of grime music and recontextualising it for an ad has to be handled carefully, and by partnering with a cult hero – himself known for his humorous and acerbic bars – rather than a household name, it stays true to the culture of battles within grime music and incorporated an original track into the advert in an authentic way. Copywriter Nathaniel Lawlor said to D&AD earlier this year: “It’s a lighthearted twist on a diss track. Also, computer-generated can be really unfunny, I almost always will try to go practical over computer-generated in any case that I’m trying to be funny, but it’s really well done here.”
This campaign took a humorous and entertaining approach that could appeal to a general audience whilst also speaking to a more niche crowd who would understand the grammar of the grime scene diss track and the voice of the underground icon. Speaking to D&AD earlier this year, Emmy Award-winning adman PJ Pereira said: “It drinks from music and from entertainment... For me branded entertainment is a great use of client money and the consumers’ time.”
It drinks from music and from entertainment
Great Stories are Timeless by agency DDB New York for the Tribeca Film Festival also taped into popular culture by repurposing classic forms of design. This work uses one of the world’s oldest forms of storytelling, Egyptian hieroglyphics, to meticulously translate over 100 iconic scenes in film and television history from the likes of Spinal Tap, The Simpsons and Apocalypse Now. This creative method of taking ancient design and communication practices and refashioning them in a more modern context allows old stories to be retold in new and unexpected ways.
Album artwork has arguably been a casualty of the digital age of music streaming, so to reclaim some of the joy consumers have found sifting through sleeves in record shops, Spotify worked with agency FIG to introduce and inspire the use of a new visual format within Spotify. Canvas Records was a pop-up record store re-imagined by the streaming service, featuring over 100 interactive, custom, digitally designed sleeves. This creative approach captured the essence of flicking through records in a store while bridging the gap between the digital and physical music purchasing experience.
This work questions the established functions of public platforms, taking advantage of ambiguities in order for agencies and brands to re-interpret content on their own terms. Creative thinking need not necessarily apply only to newly produced content but to working cleverly with existing assets, assigning them new meaning and reestablishing what it means to ‘own’ a statement, an insult, a tweet.
Theme Report by Neighbourhood, commissioned and edited by D&AD for the 2020 D&AD digital Annual.